The Editor’s Take: Redefine Your Catalog, Don’t Replace It
During the holiday ’06 season, more than one assessment in the consumer press about the healthy state of the print catalog made reference to Mark Twain’s legendary reaction to seeing his own obituary in 1897, “The reports of my demise were greatly exaggerated.” As a metaphor for the print catalog, it’s a pretty accurate quote.
Nearly a decade since e-commerce Web sites were first tooled to process orders, it’s safe to say that the role of the print catalog has largely been recast. And unlike what so many free-speaking soothsayers were forecasting in the late ’90s, Web sites didn’t replace catalogs after all. (A somewhat more modern metaphor, “I’m not dead, yet!” from Monty Python, comes to mind.) They’ve instead begun to replace call centers — or at least, reduce the need for as many CSRs and call center space — not unlike the way toll-free numbers began replacing mail orders in the 1980s.
Today, a growing number of mailers receive at least half their orders online. While benefiting from search engine marketing, affiliate marketing and other Web-specific means of capturing customers seeking specific products, a growing number of their “home-grown” catalog customers are prompted by the print catalogs they receive; then go to their PCs to place orders.
Cater to the Catalog-to-Web Customer
Unlike the specific choices they make in the print book prior to calling toll-free numbers, catalog-to-Web customers often buy non-catalog/Web-exclusive products online. For these customers, the revised role of the print catalog isn’t drastically different than the role of retail traffic-driver catalogs. The catalog whets their appetites; the expanded offerings on the respective sites seal the deal.
Today’s print catalog no longer can merely play its traditional role as your complete “store” in print. Assuming you have a Web site that can take and process orders, your catalog needs to offer a more meticulously edited selection, clearly communicating to customers that they can go to your Web site or stores to see more of your products, and to place orders.